Barney Cotton probably hoped that someday one of his sons would follow in his footsteps to play for the Cornhuskers, but the team’s offensive line coach now has three of his progeny suiting up for him – making Nebraska the only FBS squad able to claim that distinction in 2012. Ben is the oldest of the group, and could be the start of a Gronkowski-like assault on NFL rosters over the next few seasons.
Given the Huskers’ inability to move the ball through the air over the past three years (they’ve ranked 101st, 113th, and 107th in passing offense), it’s no surprise Cotton hasn’t put up great stats. He played in every game as a redshirt freshman, with one start, catching five passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. And despite starting 13 of the 14 games he played in 2010, his receiving totals actually decreased (three for 34 yards). He finally got into double-digits in receptions (14 for 189 yards) as an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick by league coaches and media in 2011.
Looks like a third tackle as a blocker at times, negating defensive ends and linebackers with his length and attitude. Knows the correct blocking angles, gets his feet in position before or while engaging his target. Combo blocks are often effective of stunning the down lineman and shielding the linebacker from making the play. If a defensive end gets under his skin, he’ll finish blocks more intensely as the game wears on. Shows enough agility and speed as a receiver to get through defenders over the middle when coming off the line unchallenged. Flashes the hands to make the easy catches to move the chains and more difficult ones in traffic.
His straight-line speed and quickness from his three-point stance won’t threaten NFL linebackers. Receives so few opportunities to make plays in the passing game it’s difficult to project the reliability of his hands. Not necessarily a dominating blocker and his tall, lean build and average overall agility will cause him to overextend and lose his balance, especially when his hand placement is off.
The oldest of three sons playing with former Husker (and current offensive line coach) Barney Cotton, Ben might not be a burner, but displays good hands in limited opportunities (14 catches, 189 yards in 2011) and has the size and attitude to be an effective in-line blocker in the NFL. Teams looking for two-way tight ends will consider picking him up in the middle rounds.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.